A few years ago, the 1938 Pennsylvania National Guard Armory along West Confederate Avenue within Gettysburg National Military Park was declared excess property by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its significance as an early armory of the Pennsylvania National Guard. In January 2014, the Commonwealth donated the 3.67 acre property to the park’s non-profit partner, the Gettysburg Foundation. It includes the historic art deco armory building plus a three bay garage and a storage shed.
The Gettysburg Foundation has agreed to fund and manage the rehabilitation and fit-out of the three-bay garage for a new cannon carriage and monument preservation shop for the park and rehab the main building for park offices. Once the facility’s rehab is complete, the Foundation will donate it to the park.
The Foundation’s fundraising is continuing for the project which will be completed in phases. The first phase will be the rehab of the garage as a monument and cannon carriage restoration shop. Since 1998, the Foundation has rented a warehouse in downtown Gettysburg to serve as the park’s cannon carriage shop. Use of the armory’s garage would allow the Foundation to dedicate this funding (currently $30,000 per year) to other
preservation and education projects for the mutual benefit of the Foundation and the park.
Rehab of the main armory building will follow in a later phase. Using the armory for park offices would meet a long standing need for consolidation of office spaces from five locations throughout
Gettysburg NMP, including administration, law enforcement and resource management.
National Park Service (NPS) ownership of the armory would meet the shared goals of the park and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to preserve the National Register property and would improve operational efficiencies in the park. Long term operational efficiencies and benefits to the park far outweigh the cost of the rehab project for the historic structure.
If the armory had been sold to a private-sector owner or developer, its new uses would have been unlikely to achieve the park’s preservation goals. The property’s mixed use/residential zoning allows for uses that had the potential to significantly detract from the park’s efforts to maintain the historic character of the site and its context in the nationally significant battlefield landscape.
Incidentally, the armory has a unique association with at least one aspect of Gettysburg battlefield history, the housing of World War II prisoners of war (POWs). In 1944, 50 prisoners were housed temporarily in the armory while they constructed the POW compound along Emmitsburg Road on the fields of Pickett’s Charge. The POWs eventually housed on the battlefield provided labor in the apple orchards and the fruit processing plants in Adams County. For more information, check out this link on the Gettysburg Discussion Group.
Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, 4/3/14